Sunday, 29 April 2012

The first time I saw Shrigley...

Opening titles of Hallam Foe. (2007, David Mackenzie, UK, 91 mins.)
Animation by David Shrigley.

An essay on Shrigley.

What have been the connections between fine art and design? Choose one specific decade and the design / designers must relate to your own pathway area and link their work/s to relevant post-modern ideas and theories.

Shrigley’s name is hardly an unfamiliar one in the contemporary art world. Since graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 1991 he has regularly published books, exhibited in galleries, worked on magazine projects/ illustrations, and more recently has been dabbling in animation. In recent years the growth of his popularity has accelerated even more so; and his work has been applied to an expansive range of projects, catalogued as a daunting record of achievements on his website. Shrigley is everywhere: t-shirts, album cover art, sculptures, films, posters, post cards, plectrums, skateboards…(the list goes on). He has even had a stint as a tattoo artist!

 I first recall being introduced to his work when I saw it being used in the opening animated sequence for the film Hallam Foe (2007). His trademark drawings and handwriting are also featured in [the main protagonist] Hallam’s diaries. At the time, not being familiar with Shrigley, I was unaware of the parallels between the character and Shrigley himself. Hallam is a compulsive voyeur, addicted to spying on the people around him and quietly judging. Is this a reflection of Shrigley? Perhaps the film makers recognised something of what they wanted Hallam’s personality to be, in him.


Shrigley’s work has a satirical quality that has allowed him to transfer it from a personal, almost self-indulgent way of working, to a commercially appealing array of what he reluctantly admits are ‘cartoons’. His scribbly drawings arguably might fall into the category of illustration; aesthetically at least. It is appealing in terms of its design; comparable to the modern brand of illustrators whose work is almost diary-like; derived from their own content, like an illustrated critique of their own life experience. People such as Lizzy Stewart and Flora Rogers create personal booklets or ‘zines’; they are not strictly illustrators; more like ‘authorstrators’.  Likewise, the content of Shrigley’s pieces is always taken from a personal viewpoint; one that seems to be blurted out impulsively and compulsively, yet with darkly thoughtful undertones. It seems that over the years he has earned the right to have his voice respected and revered. His success as both a gallery and published artist has given him free reign to let his opinionated work out to the world- a barrage of critical social commentary and an illustrated display of witty humour that is in high demand.

‘To quibble over whether Shrigley is a ‘fine artist’ or a cartoonist is just that: quibbling. He is, perhaps, neither- rather he is the maker of meta-textual chapbooks that simultaneously drag us back to a pre-literate past and flog us forward towards an unutterable future.’ (SELF,W)

The manner in which Shrigley addresses issues in his work is, in a strange way, made diplomatic by the simple and innocent manner he presents it. Journalists and critics have a tendency to describe Shrigley’s work as harbouring morbid understatements, focusing on its reference to death and the negatives of society (e.g. ‘[his] darkly comic doodles have been compared to the scribbles of a serial killer’ (SOOKE, A)). Perhaps there is a reason for the seeming obsession with attaching a dark edge to Shrigley. Maybe he would be the subject of greater fascination with disturbing or odd personality traits. An old theory, as Diderot proclaimed in 1763, is that ‘“Great artists are a bit crack-brained.”’ (PATCHETT, T. p.8) Art historians Rudolf and Margot Wittkower have also observed that the ancient Greeks found artists interesting ‘largely for their eccentricities’ (p. 8), such as sculptor Apollodoros whose temper problems led to him often smashing up his work. ‘Will we ever tire of celebrating the dark side of genius?’ (p. 8) It seems that when viewing Shrigley’s work there is a temptation to over-analyse it, perhaps conjuring up illusions about its depth that go beyond what he has intended. When explaining himself, he seems to prefer to be succinct; modestly unpretentious, without wallowing in the philosophy of his art, which makes the speculation into darker meanings a little superfluous. When prompted about the work’s undertones he has replied jokingly: ‘“I don’t think I’m clinically depressed,” [he says] with a wry smile. “So I don’t know where the darkness comes from.”’ (SOOKE, A. p. 52)

Conceptualism is an important element in Shrigley’s art, and it is his ideas that carry the distinctive style and give it relevance. In disagreement with the critical perception of conceptual art being a ‘blank’ (as asserted by his interviewer at the Brain Activity exhibit), he believes ‘”Conceptual art is honest and it’s a figurative painting that is a lie.”’ (YOUTUBE)Conceptual artists rely on the clarity of their ideas, which are exposed to the world in a way that traditional art is protected; hidden behind the skills of a talented crafts-person or painter. The armour of a conceptual artist is their confidence. Shrigley suggests ‘”one part arrogance to two parts self-confidence”’ (YOUTUBE). However, he does not class himself as a strictly conceptual artist. He is a prolific drawer, “’sort of over-productive”’ (YOUTUBE); more frivolous than perhaps some of the stricter conceptualists.

It is largely through Shrigley’s conceptualism that he waves the postmodern flag. An intrinsic part of his practise is constantly making reference to the world, a thoughtful reflection on what he finds ridiculous or has a curious obsession with. He likes to subvert the expected, and is constantly mindful of conventions, so that he may challenge them. For example, an animation exhibited in Brain Activity is a film of a man sleeping. He explained that he was interested in making an animation that almost went against the point (of showing images in motion) by showing very little movement. A short clip of the film revealed a man sleeping, slightly fidgeting, made alive by the grumbling sounds of his breathing. Shrigley seemed enthralled by the reactions, curious to how people would interpret it and try to explain what was going on- is he having a bad dream? Is he dying? What is the reason for his limited movement? By turning the expectation of an exciting, dynamic animation on its head, he potentially gives it greater meaning, as perceived by its viewers.

‘[Postmodernists] embrace a much more cautious and limited perspective on truth and knowledge, stressing that facts are simply interpretations, that truth is not absolute but merely the construct of individuals and groups, and that all knowledge is mediated by culture and language.’ (BARRETT, T. p. 31-32)

Shrigley’s work is strongly postmodern in this respect, as its comprehension relies on an awareness of our western culture and surroundings. For example, the following piece:

We understand the humour because we are aware that in English cities, pigeons are everywhere and can barely be told apart; therefore the notion of someone looking for one is completely absurd.

Not all of Shrigley’s work is social commentary; much of it seems to consist of imaginative little scenarios, thoughts that he found amusing and recorded, or his opinion (whether it seems to be asserted urgently or not). As I mentioned earlier, with this almost diary-like selection of ‘cartoons’, he can relate strongly to many modern illustrators in style and intent.

Lizzy Stewart has published works which include the charming book of ‘short stories in picture form’ (Stewart’s official website) called Cardigan Heart. Like Shrigley, her own thoughts or memories appear apparent. The appeal of the work is due to its intimate nature, and its secrecy. Its complexity may lie less in a viewer attempting to comprehend an intended meaning, but more in the personal perception of the ambiguous meaning. The viewers of this kind of work can relate to it on a personal level and identify with it; it is accessible and relevant to people, as it has emotional content; content which hasn’t been made intimidating with complex techniques or any illusions of ‘grandness’.

Text on right reads: ‘Ediburgh- I’m a jumbled as your mess of rooftops. I think it’s why we’re such good friends.

Text reads:  ‘Two PeopleShe would pull her sleeves down over her hands making her appear constantly self-conscious, which, of course, she was. It also meant that all her cardigans were mishapen. “The red-haired girl smiled at him from across the room. He would see that smile across countless rooms over the course of his life but there, that day, was the first.” She loved when writers jumped, momentarily, into the future. Three years from now she would cut off her hair during a bout of Jean-Seberg-fever. A decision she would hide with a hat for many months. (She would also be useless at parties her entire life.) She photographed all the lost gloves she found on fences. (And took the saddest ones home). He made mixtapes, still. He made them obsessively and lovingly for no one in particular. He didn’t like when strangers spoke to him on the train so would often pretend to be French; a plan that only backfired once. His beard hid most of the scar from when, aged eleven, he fell from a trampoline whilst trying to impress his older brother. He kept all his cinema tickets in a shoe box. Even the shit ones. He was always losing his gloves.'


Controversially, Shrigley himself has helped in speaking out against illustrators who work in such an insular way. His art work (as seen above) has been used recently in an article for the Creative Review by Lawrence Zeegen, who states ‘Illustration has become entrenched in navel-gazing and self-authorship… it has withdrawn from society's big debates to focus on the chit-chat of inner sanctum nothingness. It’s time for the profession to stop pleasing itself and engage with the world outside.’ Perhaps Shrigley, then, wouldn’t appreciate a comparison to these illustrators. It is difficult to pigeon-hole someone whose work doesn’t seem to assert a decisive preference for its purpose-after all, Shrigley’s work is used a lot in Merchandise, like the work of illustrators who may not contribute towards ‘society’s big debates’. However, Shrigley seems to have respect for all classifications of ‘artist’ and is certainly not afraid to explore them himself, blurring boundaries as he goes, constantly challenging his art to oppose itself: ‘"naive/sophisticated; whole/part; framed/unconstrained; to scale/in perspective; naturalism/fantasy"…To which one can add, among other things: funny/not funny.  (LEZARD, N )

In conclusion, it is safe to say that Shrigley’s work, whether he likes it or not, does bridge the gap between fine art and design, increasingly so as his popularity grows. His sharp awareness of our postmodern, contemporary culture informs his practise and becomes part of it. Hopefully it can be anticipated that he will continue to be unstoppably prolific.

LEZARD, N. (2012) David Shrigley: One of the cleverest, funniest conceptual artists. The Guardian, [online] 27th January. Available at: [Accessed 23rd February 2012]
SOOKE, A. (2012) Madly Drawn. Telegraph Magazine, 28th January, p. 51-53
ZEEGEN, L. (2012) Where is the content? Where is the comment? Creative Review. [online]28th February. Available at: [Accessed 29th February, 2012]

BARRETT, T. (2012) Criticizing Art/Understanding the Contemporary 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
FREELAND, C. (2001) But is it art? New York: Oxford University Press.
SELF, W. (2010) Introduction by Will Self.
In: SHRIGLEY, D. (2010) The Essential David Shrigley. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd.
SHRIGLEY, D. (2010) The Essential David Shrigley. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd.
STEWART, L. (no date) Cardigan Heart. Self-published. Purchased at ‘Pick Me Up’ 2012, Somerset House, London.
Hallam Foe  (2007, David Mackenzie, UK, 91 mins.)
PATCHETT, T. (1998) Most Art Sucks- Five Years Of Coagula. California: Smart Art Press
David Shrigley ‘Brain Activity’. (2012) Youtube. Available at: [Accessed 23rd February 2012]
David Shrigley’s official website:
Lizzy Stewart’s official website:

Image List
1.& 2. Hallam Foe .[DVD stills] (2007, David Mackenzie, UK, 91 mins.)
3. SHRIGLEY, D. (1996). Lost. Available at: [Accessed 23rd February 2012]
4.&5. STEWART, L. (undated). Cardigan Heart (selected pages). Available at: [Accessed 23rd February 2012]
6. SHRIGLEY, D. (undated).  Fight the Nothingness (photograph of work outside the Hayward Gallery, London).  Available at: [Accessed 29th February 2012]

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Winter's Bone

I just stumbled across a short review I did of Winter's Bone last year. We went to Cornerhouse to view it with the rest of our critical studies group. It's an excellent film that kick-started the now flourishing career of Jennifer Lawrence, who has since starred in X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games.
Click here for the official trailer.

Analysing and evaluating films as works of art: Winter’s Bone

The synopsis of the film highlighted the predominantly negative themes, and after reading it I was worried the film would be so depressing that it would be an entirely unpleasant viewing experience. However, the story had a surprisingly enduring sense of hope, and the determined struggle of the protagonist, the hardened mountain girl Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), was completely absorbing, along with the beautifully shot landscape.

The story centres around Ree’s desperate effort to support her family, who have been abandoned by their ‘crank’ manufacturing father and face the loss of their home if he fails to show up in court. Seventeen year-old Ree faces the daunting challenges of acting as a mother for her younger siblings as well as a carer for her incapable, emotionally withdrawn mother. Now she also faces the quest to find her father before his absence ruins everything.

The culture which is explored in the film reveals a tough, poor way of life. They are almost like a forgotten race, surrounded by the haunting beauty of rural America, where the law is ignored and the people live off the land. In contrast to the usual society revealed by American cinema, the characters find value and purpose in little but their family and their homes. The importance of family is evident throughout the film, e.g. in the way Ree’s presence is often only accepted when she announces she is the daughter of Jessup Dolly, a man whose name is infamous because of his dangerous involvement in the local drug trade. Her loyalty to her father is also subtly evident, despite his abandonment of his family.

Most of the characters in the film begin by showing a ‘tough love’ attitude towards Ree. The locals are mostly all aware that Jessup has been killed, but try to protect Ree from finding out. In her various visits around the mountain people, she encounters intimidating and violent characters, which gives the film an imposing sense of danger and unpredictability e.g. when Ree visits Teardrop (Jessup’s brother) he becomes violent towards her and his wife upon Ree’s insistence that he help her find Jessup.

In the opening scenes a muted, naturalistic colour scheme is quickly established, reflecting the barren and cold atmosphere which is shown literally, in the mountain terrain setting, as well as the grim, sombre mood of the film. The main colour which stood out from the mise-en-scene was a cool blue, e.g. blue cars, blue clothes, water. Blue can be symbolic of depression and coldness, two words which are extremely relevant in this context. It can also be associated with knowledge, something which Ree is searching for in the form of her father’s whereabouts. There is also a fair amount of warm yellow, suggesting the natural glow of firelight, mostly in indoor scenes.

There was very little non-diegetic sound, in-keeping with the rural natural feel of the film, although it was sometimes employed to intensify what was happening on screen, which worked particularly well in dramatising events because of the general lack of music.

The end scene of the film was in my opinion the most poignant. Teardrop shows his tender side as he visits Ree and her family, and plays them a tune on his brother’s old instrument. He indicates to Ree that he has found out who his brother’s killer was, and in the quiet understanding between him and Ree it is suggested that he is going to avenge Jessup, and in that case may never see them again.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Contact with Ann Winder-Boyle

Mixed Media on Board
20cm x 15cm
See her website here.

It’s interesting that you’ve only recently started working as an artist. Did you practise at all in your spare time before studying it as a mature student?
I returned to college in  2001 to study an access course in art and design as I had always regretted not going to University in my teens I enjoyed it so much I carried on through to the degree course.  I had always dabbled in arts and crafts of various forms. The course I took was very experimental encouraging you to work with nontraditional materials and it was at this point I began melting anything from wax crayons to plastic carrier bags, the work I do now is just a natural progression.

Using beeswax in your collage sounds difficult! How does it work? Is it something you discovered experimentally or a taught technique?
The idea of using beeswax is not a new one and the Egyptians used it in their paintings, but I use it more as a preservative for the collage as well as the nostalgic quality  it gives rather than a painting medium.

Your wire sculptures look like such a natural progression of your 2d pieces, like you’re drawing with the wire. Where did the idea for these come from?
I have always been interested in sculpture and the wire figures came along as a ‘happy accident’ while I was waiting for a clay sculpture to dry off.

How long does the average piece of work take you to finish? (for example, the pieces in the ‘gallery’ page of your website)
Time wise it’s difficult to say, sometimes if everything goes well I can finish one in  2-3 days others can take much longer.  Some days it’s difficult to get inspired and others you can’t stop yourself. I also spend a lot of time sourcing old books.

Your work is obviously very personal and has a great relevance to you and your family history. Although it is quite illustrative in appearance (like childrens’ book illustrations) my tutors might describe you as an ‘authorstrator’ as you generate your own content. In this sense, how do you see yourself- do you class yourself as a fine artist? Do you think you could adapt your style to less personal work? (I ask because, as an illustration student, I find it easiest to respond to a brief when I can find a personal connection to the idea, and I worry that this may limit my ability to work as well commercially, for editorial commissions etc.)
My initial work was very personal but post degree I had to separate myself from the work once I began to sell, you can become too attached to it otherwise which makes it difficult to let it go, that said I still find I get much more pleasure from having a personal connection with the work.  ‘Authorstrator’ I’ve never heard of that description but I like it, I would title myself as a collage artist, the use of mixed media is very important to me.

Your collages seem never-ending- like you’re never going to run out of ideas for the pictures! Do you always use the same books and old family belongings for the inspiration? What else has inspired/influenced your art?
I can be influenced by so many things from a book title to a colour although when faced with completing a dozen pieces for an exhibition It can be quite daunting.

(And finally!) You described making Joseph Cornell style boxes before you began working on your collages. What made you decide to make the shift to 2d work instead? Are these displayed anywhere? I would be very interested to see them if at all possible.
The Cornell style boxes were made in my final degree year and I would describe then as transitional pieces the only place they are displayed is on the wall of my studio.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Summer Brief

We haven't yet been officially briefed, but our tutor Jo mentioned it yesterday.
We get to write our own briefs! I am so excited....I have so many ideas...

I can't wait until everything's handed in at the deadline to get started!

A lecture from Jon Hill

I found this lecture very inspiring, despite it probably having more relevance to graphic design.

Jon Hill is the design editor of the times, and he came in to discuss with the design students why working for a newspaper may be worthwhile in the future...

His career has changed throughout the years; ranging from work as a junior designer to being the design editor of the times. It sounds like a daunting job to be able to achieve, from our perspective, but it shows how big things can happen when you take all the opportunities you can.

He discussed how becoming as a junior designer (at Atelier Works) consisted mostly of basic office tasks; making tea for other staff, mounting work etc. However, his hard work paid off when he got the apprenticeship there. Later, as a senior designer at Esterson Associates he had the freedom to do more varied design work, working on various books and newspaper projects.

After starting a family he was self-employed and worked from the attic at his home in Wilmslow. His experience working in London meant that he still had a lot of business from the connections he had made, but he was able to work alone from home instead.

But the most dramatic career change came when he accepted a job as the design editor of the times, changing his work environment from a little personal space to a huge corporate building. Around 2006 Hill was involved when Neville Brody wanted to re-design the Times for its new, more compact size. It was then that the font 'Times Modern' was designed for it, pictures were changed to colour, and more consideration went into the layout for the double page spreads- it became a little more daring (e.g. images were sometimes used within text, to highlight the information, 'a bit like a magazine').

Hill described how the hierarchal structure of the newspaper was a bit like a government. As the design editor, he is quite high up, near to the top, with the editor James Harding. However, the structure changed so that more employees were encouraged to merge together and explore different disciplines together.

He showed us an example of an unusual layout, to show how the design of stories had become so much more of an important element. In this case, the Chilean miners story was presented as a large double page diagram. The curved line around the edge was drawn to be the actual size of the pods the miners were in, making an interactive feature if the reader were to put the newspaper on the floor and see for themselves.

Hill was also very enthusiastic about special issues of the newspaper supplement magazine, such as the Obama election story, the death of Michael Jackson and Prince Wiliam's wedding to Kate Middeton. With these stories the designers have the excuse to be particularly extravagant and go 'overboard' with their work. He also mentioned their monthly science magazine, 'Eureka', which the graphics are also particularly important in, to make the content accessible and fun for the general public. They make it as 'consumable as possible'.

In light of the constant digital advancements happening so rapidly recently, Newspaper circulation is on the decline. The Times have kept up-to-date with this. Hill told us how his office were shown some of the first ever editions of the IPad. It was all very strict and top secret. The Times had to be designed to fit the new IPad app, for the readers who would want to access it this way. Although the Times would now be available as a newspaper, website and IPad app (as animated, interactive articles), it was still the 'same ingredients' for all three platforms. They just work hard to stay as modern and relevant as they can.

Hill's final words of advice were: take every opportunity for experience as you can- it may lead onto your career. And in response to how illustrators were commissioned, he stressed that they look for people based on their appropriateness for the story, and their ability to generate ideas. As editorial work is usually the best way to get into the industry, hopefully I can do what the professionals advise and try my best to pick up opportunities that come my way in the near future!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Some thoughts on drawing

Over the last couple of weeks I've been adding to my portrait collection.
I've noticed a few little things about the way I approach drawing people, and how it affects the outcome.
  • Drawing from life forces you to be quicker, more spontaneous in the movements of the pen/pencil across the page. This can be so satisfying when you manage to capture the 'look' of your subject in quite a simple sketch. Sometimes then it seems adding more detail is unnecessary. But it also means there can be a lot more trial and error moments- if I'm not happy with a drawing it seems pointless to use a rubber on it and labour over one drawing until it looks right- I'll just try again with a new one. 
  • Drawing from another image/photo (which is what I mostly do for my figures at the moment) allows you to labour over it- you can be slow and come back to add more/make changes. I like being able to do this. I often find that when I begin a drawing I'm not always happy with how it looks at first...I'll consider how I'll probably have to start again. But then often this is not the case, as the look of the drawing evolves as you add more detail. I've been unhappy with how pencil drawings have started out, only to improve them by adding colour or pen lines-whether it's ink, watercolour or pencil crayons etc.
  • Drawing from imagination is the hardest, to me, by far. I used to be able to do endless pictures of princesses, dragons and various fairytale things when I was younger. It's still a fun thing to do when you feel like you're just play drawing. But when I feel as though my drawing is work, this changes, and I think about everything much more critically. Materials are selected much more carefully, composition and format has to be taken into account. And basing things on real life becomes much more important. For example, if I wanted to draw a monkey I could easily scribble one out that could be recognised; but if it was for a project I would start by studying images of real monkeys, get a feel for how they really look, then develop the idea with my own stylisation. It becomes a much more thoughtful process. Drawing people from imagination is something I feel I am still learning to do. It seems easy to do a basic drawing and make it look like a person, but when you want to create someone detailed and real looking, you have to pay attention to things like subtle shading of features, body proportions, capturing a particular expression. I rely on being able to see this in front of me to be able to do it accurately, but maybe with enough experience drawing from real life, it would be easier to improvise and create someone from the imagination.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A handmade object is a thing with a soul.
-Kristina Sabaite

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter with the Williamses

After the Easter lunch David decided to direct a song on the glasses...
(hours of endless fun)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A little bit stuck on my work for the Howkapow brief...

This holiday I have a daunting task ahead of me.

After speaking with Howkapow it's clear that my work has to be altered quite dramatically!
I feared this would be the case as my work isn't ideally suited to the more graphic work their site seems to favour. I got a little bit carried away at first.

As instructed in the brief, I based my design on Scandinavian folk tales, choosing to look at the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was a little bit stuck on how to approach it at first, so I looked back on to an early exercise we did this year where we made inventive animal characters, when I made a 3D stoat and based drawings and a painting on it. I thought this might be appropriate for the brief, so I threw myself into making my goat over the weekend. Here's how he turned out:

Mojo Fury Came To Town

It was quite exciting to get the chance to see Michael Mormecha and his band Mojo Fury in our home town, York. They arrived on tour, supporting InMe alongside Lost Alone. 

I always forget what an impressive city York is, with it's history and beautiful old buildings.
Venue Mouse seemed quite impressed, particularly by the Minster:

We were lucky enough to be guest-listed for the show at Fibbers. Bizarrely enough, we also saw Kieran, our print room technician at college there! I was too nervous to take pictures, so here's a couple from Bryony:
We got to go out with the bands afterwards, which was, again, so surreal in such familiar surroundings!

Bryony and I


Anna and Phoebe 

happy Michael

Venue Mouse right before a dangerous fall

The morning after the gig Bryony and I met up with Michael for a mini tour of York. We met at the Minster gardens and wandered to the Museum Gardens, by the river, and back through the main streets, past the market and down the famous old street, the Shambles, before we had to say our farewells.

We returned to Manchester and the usual miserable weather, until Saturday 24th March when the sunshine and the tour bus returned! In the shorts and t-shirt weather I went to meet up with Michael for a wander round Manchester. The tour bus was parked down the side alley of Moho Live. I got a quick peek and a cup of coffee inside.
Somehow, I managed to get the start time of the gig completely wrong (we aimed to arrive at 8.30pm when in fact it was due to begin at 6pm), so we had missed both of the support bands. Moho was much busier than Fibbers, and InMe seemed to be enjoying the enthusiastic crowd.
Michael decided to trust me with his InMe pass so that we could hopefully get into Zoo with them for free for an after-party.
But, in the end they decided Zoo was weird and came to a couple of bars with us instead.
The lovely weather continued the next day. We enjoyed a day out in the garden and were even treated to some real Irish made potato cakes!
Michael is an extremely messy cook
Me and Bryony had two each!

They were our guests for one more night before departing on Monday to continue with the tour.
Here is my souvenir:

What a great weekend!

Mojo Fury's debut album Visiting Hours of a Travelling Circus is available on itunes.
Free track Grounds can be downloaded for free here ...
And El here ...
And Deep Fish Tank [Factory Settings]here.

Some words from Sean Avery

I've been lucky enough to get in touch with the Australian artist Sean Avery, whose work consists of impressive 'sustainable' sculptures and childrens' book illustrations (which he also writes).
I was unaware of his work until a friend pointed him out...
Mixed Media
Width: 20cm Height: 17cm Depth: 50cm
'An otter I made to ease the pain of selling my cat.'

Here is how the correspondence went:
-----Original Message-----
From: "Emily Denison" <>
Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 9:26am
Subject: questions from Emily :)

Dear Sean,

Thank you for letting me ask you some questions.
Firstly, I must apologise if any of these come across as ignorant- you are a new discovery for me and unfortunately there is limited information about you that I can find over here in the UK!
  • When asked about your sculptures in previous interviews you have said your inspiration is animals. Are there any outside influences or artists who have influenced you in any way as well, whether it be style or working method? Which other artists do you admire?
  • Has your production of 'sustainable art' been a conscious decision before you chose the style?
  • Has it been a difficult journey to get to where you are now professionally? Was there a 'breakthrough' moment?
  • Do you feel that your work as a sculptor or book writer/illustrator has been the most successful? Have they each been more rewarding in different ways?
  • We have been discussing the pros and cons of working for free as illustrators first starting out (e.g. entering competitions, working for friends and so on), as it seems to be unclear when is a good time to draw the line and only do paid work. What is your opinion?
  • If you could rewind the clock a few years, is there anything you would have done differently in regards to your career? What advice would you give yourself?
  • What is your preferred method of image making for the illustrations in your books?
  • Is there a particular piece of work you are proud of/ have a stronger personal connection to than others?
  • How long does it usually take you to make your sculptures? Does it ever get boring? (Could you describe the process?)
Thank you so much for your time
Best Wishes

Hi Emily,

Not a problem, more than happy to answer your questions!

  • When asked about your sculptures in previous interviews you have said your inspiration is animals. Are there any outside influences or artists who have influenced you in any way as well, whether it be style or working method? Which other artists do you admire?
It's funny, but most of my sculpture work is inspired by illustrators and not other sculptors. I love drawings with energy, movement and a slightly dark sense of humour, like the illustrations from Quentin Blake, Tim Burton and Gris Grimly. Communicating energy and movement through static media like sculpture or drawing really inspires me.
  • Has your production of 'sustainable art' been a conscious decision before you chose the style?
No it wasn't. I'm not really an environmentalist at heart, but I do get a kick out of turning familiar, household debris into beautiful things!
  • Has it been a difficult journey to get to where you are now professionally? Was there a 'breakthrough' moment?
It's been a slow and steady grind to be taken seriously as an artist and a writer, but it's all good now! My sculpture photos have been up on the net for a while now, but they went viral on the 16th of February 2012 which was an awesome. I don't know how it started, but when I checked my emails that day, I had hundreds — it was all a little overwhelming!
  • Do you feel that your work as a sculptor or book writer/illustrator has been the most successful? Have they each been more rewarding in different ways?
It's like chalk and cheese trying to compare the two ... I would say that I've had equal amounts of success in both fields, but I'm definitely better known internationally for my sculptures. I love both my areas, it's just the best way to live life — making a living doing what I love.
  • We have been discussing the pros and cons of working for free as illustrators first starting out (e.g. entering competitions, working for friends and so on), as it seems to be unclear when is a good time to draw the line and only do paid work. What is your opinion?
I have done a fair share of unpaid work in my time. Unless it's done as a favour for a close friend or as a structured internship, it sucks. You should always make people pay you for your work if you don't know them, even if it's just a little bit. If people are paying for your services, you will be treated with the respect you deserve. Many people are under the delusion that artists are so desperate for the opportunity to "build their portfolio" that they will accept any crumby job with vague, half promises of possible paid work in the future. These people will take advantage of you if you let them.
  • If you could rewind the clock a few years, is there anything you would have done differently in regards to your career? What advice would you give yourself?
Read more, draw more, sculpt more and be more open to constructive criticism. There was a time when I pouted like a big baby if someone made negative comments about my work, and I truly believe that attitude stunted my growth as an artist. People will say bad things about your stuff — learn to love it because critiques help you grow while too much positive reinforcement does nothing but give you a big head.
  • What is your preferred method of image making for the illustrations in your books?
A mixture of digital and traditional media. I love traditional inks for line work but prefer digital colour for it's consistency and vibrant palette.
  • Is there a particular piece of work you are proud of/ have a stronger personal connection to than others?
My favourite sculptural piece was actually a set of alphabet letter monsters that I made once. Something about them, I just love. I also really love my first book, All Monkeys Love Bananas.
  • How long does it usually take you to make your sculptures? Does it ever get boring? (Could you describe the process?)
It is long and tedious sometimes, a large piece can take a little over a week to make. I create a wire mesh armature of my creature, then cut my CDs up and arrange them by size and colour. I'll then glue each CD shard to the frame to create a fur/feather/scale pattern. It's a great feeling when you're putting those last few pieces on though — really satisfying.

Hope that answers all your questions, Em!

All the best regards,
Hearing back from Mr. Avery was great! He replied so quickly. It was encouraging to hear that he takes inspiration from artists like Quentin Blake and Tim Burton, as they are also a great inspiration to me. And hearing that his progress towards being taken seriously has been a 'slow steady grind' is strangely encouraging too; another supporter of the 'hard work eventually pays off' philosophy. I am (at the moment) prepared to work hard to get to where I want to be-making a living from my art.

After the on-going debates we've been having at college about designers working for free, it was refreshing to hear someone being opinionated about making people pay for work. Ideally, I would want to avoid people taking advantage of me as an illustrator just starting out, although this seems like a hard process to avoid based on experiences so far (e.g. having to pay to enter the D&AD competition).

Being open to constructive criticism was also a great piece of advice-so far I haven't come up against too much resistance to the way I work, but perhaps I should be seeking out a wider audience for criticism. I would hate to feel that I was being stubbornly protective over something that had the potential to be a lot better. Being as curious as possible has also been on my mind lately too- I'm trying to read more, get out and about as much as possible; see the world and draw from it!

And finally, it was nice to hear that his meticulous process is satisfying at the end. Sometimes I can work for hours on a piece, but it does all come together in the end, and proves to me that I wouldn't want to change it. (e.g. the hours I spent creating the 'carpet' for my Life Stories dancehall set-up.)

Overall, it has been very informative, and a pleasure to hear back from someone so friendly and helpful!